Book of Madness

WW 4251WWW $15.00 Oct-94
Written by Sam Inabinet, Phil Brucato, Kathleen Ryan, Steven Brown and Bill Bridges
Developed by Phil Brucato
Cover Art: Michelle Prahler
Art by Josh Timbrook, Alex Sheikman


A compendium of information about the Nephandi, Marauders, and Paradox entities The Darkness has teeth! This is a bestiary of Mage:The Ascension, exploring the darker reaches of magick's touch. It includes details about a mage's deadliest foes, dozens of mystic creatures from the Deep Umbra, and hints of the Earthly cults dedicated to undermining reality.

"The Darkness has Teeth. It Hungers!" Beyond the Horizon, dark forces claw at the edges of sanity, battering at the fabric of reality, seeking final night: Nephandi, the Corrupters, Marauders, the Foot-soldiers of Chaos, Demons, the Renders of Souls, Paradox Spirits, the Mages Bane, Umbrood, the Living Mysteries, The Shade-Dwellers of Earth and Beyond. What are they? Why are they? Can we stand against them all? And what if we cannot? This is a bestiary of Mage:The Ascension, exploring the darker reaches of magick's touch. It includes details about a mage's deadliest foes, dozens of mystic creatures from the Deep Umbra, and hints of the Earthly cults dedicated to undermining reality.


The Darkness Has Teeth Beyond the Horizon, dark forces claw at the edges of sanity, battering at the fabric of reality, seeking final night: Nephandi, the Corrupters - Marauders the Foot-Soldiers of Chaos - Demons, the Renders of Souls-Paradox Spirits, the Mage's Bane - Umbrood, the Living Mysteries. What are they? Why are they? Can we stand against them at all? And what if we cannot?

And it Hungers The Book of Madness is a bestiary for Mage: The Ascension, exploring the darker reaches of magick's touch. It presents the forces of Chaos itself, for players to fight and Storytellers to champion.

Review by Timothy Toner (11 Dec 94)

The book is nothing if not ambitious, tackling Nephandi and Maurauders in a single tome. THe idea is that both camps are technically really insane, just in different flavors.

I got it so early, because I have a game subscription for mage and get games right off the presses, so I now have Akashic Brotherhood TradBook (not so impressive if you've taken a course in Zen Buddhism).

That being said, it's a hel of a book, chock full of little details that make these groups seem more...reasonable. I'm still not sure if I can pull off playing one as an NPC (definitely not as a PC), but we know now more than we did before.

The book is divided up into four parts:

I'm almost through with the Nephandi, and they're...weird. Why do they seem like demons? Once, they were formless, but human belief created a void which they found easy to fill. When in Rome, as they say...

Nephandi have new takes on the spheres, but the only one specifically mentioned is Entropy, which can get pretty potent. I do wish they had taken the time to detail the others.

The book answers a lot of semantic questions, like why don't the Nephandi just make a nuclear war start, and go home? The truth is that the nature of their Magick makes them extremely susceptible to Paradox. Any attempt to harm the mortal world in this way would get them killed before they start. Besides, their goal is to summon their masters here, and not turn it into a charcoal briquette. It looks into the realtionships the Nephandi\ have with the Sabbat (all Sabbat members are seen as potential candidates for the Path of Evil Revelations), Black Spiral Dancers, and Formori (Nephandi can make them, too). Although lacking in specifics, it catches the mood quite well, and is a great stepping off point.

The maurauder section is a little harder to define, since I haven't quite finished it. Basically, they live in a state of eternal Quiet, where paradox cannot touch them. They can, however, fall deeper into QUiet, losing all touch with reality altogether, so they have to be careful. They can summon mythic beasts to earth with a variety of rotes, and feed them Tass rations to keep them around (creatures mentioned vary from the Abominal snowman to the Sphinx to the Ki-Rin to the Griffin). The most potent power of the maurauders it to infect the world with their own hobgoblins, truly terrifying.

Why haven't the maurauders taken over the world? Put simply, their strength is their weakness. No one wants to follow their delusional state, isnce few have dementia that don't have some negative aspects. A Maurauder campaign would be next to impossible to run, since each would translate reality into a different shade, proving frustrating to ST and player. Still, the possibilities are indeed endless.

The Paradox bits are put in apparently to show how the Maurauders are immune to them. Nothing new here; Paradox is the friction created when realities collide. The lose is the one who gets stressed out.

The Hedge magick rules, as well as infernal investments (sell your soul, and get stuff) are included to help make more varied NPCs on the Nephandi side. Also, all creatures (including some nasty new paradox spirits) are given Werewolf 2nd ed. Spirit rankings, to allow Maurauders and the Garou fight side by side. And who'da thunk that Wrinkle's "Unborn" power was only 10 Power?

That's really it. It's a pretty amazing book, all in all, well worth the $15.00 I paid. Phil managed to pack a lot of stuff in this one. Surem they could probably have been more specific, but you can't have it all.

"Stereotypes for various barabbi:

Review by Anders Sandberg (27 Jan 95)

I really liked this one. That is not to say I liked the entire book, but certain parts really outshine the less developed parts. Just like the Book of Shadows, the Book of Madness is filled with stuff, both good and bad, which makes it hard to discuss in its entirety.

The Nephandi chapter didn't contain any real surprises. It expands the descriptions given in the BoS and the main book a lot, but doesn't really change anything. One of the more interesting parts is the section about the Dark Lords, which agrees with my own theories that there are several alternative types of Nephandi, serving different kinds of horrors. Or maybe some of the horrors are really the same, depending on how one views things. The good thing about the section is that it doesn't set things in stone. The section about qlippothic magick is also interesting, and has much potential for creation of truly warped magick. The character descriptions are adekvate, and some are quite creative. What I felt was lacking from this chapter was a more in depth discussion of Nephandi philosophy and psychology. What motivates them? Why did they become Nephandi? How do they feel about it? There are some hints about these questions in the storytelling hints section, but not much.

The Paradox chapter is naturally more abstract. It studies many of the problems and metaphysical theories that have been discussed on the net before. And just as these discussions, it doesn't come to many firm conclusions. Which is perhaps as it should be. On the other hand, the second part which, about storytelling Paradox, is very useful and interesting.

If the Nephandi and Paradox sections didn't surprise me, the Marauder section did. It alone makes the book worth buying! It has some very interesting visions about the world of the Marauders, ranging from their individual madness over their "tactics" to several interesting characters (the Marauder barrister is simply the most fascinating NPC I have ever seen). The style is light, has plenty of interesting implications (What *is* the secret of flowered wallpaper?) and manages to convey a very interesting impression of the Marauders.

What is interesting is that the sample characters are generally portrayed in a positive light. They may be insane and accidentally kill people from time to time, but they are at heart quite dedicated and nice people. I think this also reveals the problem with the Nephandi and Diabolist sections: in these chapters, the authors try to distance themselves as much as possible from their subjects, and always portray them in a clear negative light. I think the text would have profited immensely if they instead had dared to describe the darkness from within, not just from a safe distance. One nasty possibility is hinted at in the section about storytelling diabolism: is it so that the authors felt that describing Nephandi or Diabolists in anything but a negative light would risk branding the game as satanic or promoting satanism? In that case the Book of Madness should perhaps have been distributed through Black Dog instead.

As mentioned, the chapter about demons and diabolism is dark. While I think that demons and dark pacts are an important part of the dark Gothic world, the chapter irritates me somewhat. The introduction, where different mages give their views on the nature of demons is quite interesting. But then the chapter turns to a description of demons, their powers, pacts and diabolists which isn't as strong. Somehow I feel that the authors try to distance themselves so much from the subject that the text lacks true feeling, which is sad since the area has so much dark passion and gruesome storytelling power. In fact, it seeks to turn any player off from ever being tempted by the infernal forces (including stating that mages gain very little from pacts) apparently just to make sure powergamers won't become diabolists. Powergamers always twist the system, regardless what anybody wants them too, and the chapter completely ignores the really interesting part of diabolism: how to tempt and frighten the players so that infernal powers become more than an endless supply of evil-to-the-core hedge mages and cultists the heroic players can slaughter without any mercy.

On the other hand, chapter 5, about the Umbrood is tempting and tantalizing. It gives some fascinating hints about the Umbra, and really whets one's appetite for the Umbra sourcebook for mage. It contains some interesting metaphysics and some very good storytelling hints. Its also interesting in that it manages to integrate much of the world from Werewolf without falling into the easy trap of explaining everything away using the Triat. Instead it proposes another metaphysics, more gnostic and much more suitable for Mage. This chapter really manages to make spirits something far more interesting and complex than the rather brief discussion in Mage.

Its important to realize that not all of the material of the book can be used together. Placing both Marauders and Nephandi in a chronicle will probably drastically overload it, and the other fascinating subjects (demons, paradox and umbrood) can easily tempt storytellers to use too much of the dark side of Mage, loosing focus and dulling the horrors through their sheer number.

To sum up, I found the Marauder and Umbra chapters to be the real treasures of the book. The Nephandi and Paradox chapters were useful and has some interesting applications, but nothing spectacular. And the diabolism chapter is unfortunately far too conventional for my taste. What I think is important about the darkness of mage is its seductiveness. Its easy for unwary mages to stray from the Path or be tempted by the sights beyond. But this requires that the storyteller and players dare to not only see things from a different perspective, but also to allow themselves to *feel* the lure of the darkness, if only for a short time. If the authors of the Book of Madness had managed to convey this feeling, it would have been a masterpiece. Now its very useful, but also uneven.